This novel introduces us to a world where the future of commerce is the past. In the twenty-fourth century, the Company recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus.
The cyborg trio poses as Doctor Ruy Lopez, his daughter Rosa (the irrepressible Mendoza, now grown), and her duenna, Doña Marguerita; Sir Walter's hospitality and discretion are bought for the promise of restored youth. (There are hilarious moments that call to mind the Coneheads, who claimed to be from France when caught doing anything peculiar.) Sir Walter's secretary, Nicholas Harpole, is immediately suspicious of and hostile towards the strange "Spanish" visitors, which prompts Mendoza to fall in love with him. Nicholas has his own badly kept secret: he's proudly Protestant at a time when Queen Mary and Philip of Spain are on a Catholicizing rampage. Mendoza knows Nicholas is probably doomed, and that as a Company operative she cannot meddle with his fate, but love makes people do desperate things. Baker surpasses even Connie Willis in humor and precision of period detail in this fresh, ingenious first novel.--Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
And devour I did. You see, the first thing you need to know about Baker is that she writes smooth, fast-paced prose. The conversations are believable, paragraphs are precise, and even the moments of Elizabethan English are quite readable. There are still lovely descriptive points in which she shows herself to be an author of colourful vocabulary, describing a scene in less time than it would take most authors, simply because she knows better words.
Garden of Iden is the first book in Baker's "Company" or "Dr. Zeus" series, and apparently her first book published, ever. For those who like history, you'll be visiting Spain and England primarily, during the Age of Exploration. For those who know a great deal about either, you'll be pleased to note that much of the historical details are correct; although to be honest, I can't speak as much about Spain as I can England. More on that later. For those who like science-fiction, there's the company called Dr. Zeus, which discovered time travel and immortality through scientific means and seeks to use their immortals to salvage things from the past. Although this isn't hard sci-fi with technical specifications (Baker strikes me as extremely right-brained), there's enough to get the wheels turning, even if it's a bit far-fetched.
For those who have made a study of the "Little Tudors", as I did, the overt praise of Queen Elizabeth is a bit much. She very much makes Queen Mary-- known to the Protestant future as "Bloody Mary"-- the villain.Read more ›
I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Baker does a decent job of covering the information you need to dive into the story. She gives us background about The Company, she details how Mendoza goes through surgeries to become an operative, and she even sets up Mendoza's rescue from the hands of the Spanish Inquisition as a small child. There are some things she doesn't cover very well, like Theobromos and why the operatives are trained using mostly movies.
The novel isn't a fast paced book, but you don't really expect it to me. It takes place in a small garden in Kent, where the most exciting things are the changes in Iden himself, and the romance between Mendoza and Nicholas. I was laughing out loud when Joseph misjudged a time release drug that caused Iden to act like a man possessed.
The characters of the book are reasonably well rounded, I would say Joseph is the least fleshed out of the main characters. We know all about Mendoza, and through her relationship with Nicholas we learn much about him and his problems. I can only guess that Joseph doesn't get much billing because the second of this series is about him, and Baker wanted to establish Mendoza and her hang-ups before moving on.